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 bakelite clarinet
Author: Jean 
Date:   2002-10-01 13:08

Perhaps someone can shed some light on the use of plastic or bakelite in clarinets. I purchased an old(er) clarinet this weekend for nearly nothingthat appears to be made of bakelite. A bit about it: the maker is F. Holton, the keys are nickel plated, it is a boehm system and the barrel and body say L.P. The mouthpiece I do not recall except that it was French and the ligature is apparently from Boosey and Hawkes as it is in the shape of a B and an H and says "Made in England". The clarinet is obviously not wood or plastic and both my husband and I think it is bakelite. Any ideas as to when and how long bakelite was used? I don't care if it is worth anything or not, I really bought it for the ligature.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Bob 
Date:   2002-10-01 13:48

"Bakelite" was (is?) a trademark of General Electric for its phenolic resin and the tm goes back I think to the late 1920s or earlier. Since G.E. was a major corporation and since they used Bakelite for many electric insulator parts the name became popular and eventually was and is used as a generic name for all phenolic resins. Off hand I cannot recall another popular name for any other manufacturer's phenolic resin. Bakelite was either a better or less costly replacement for hard rubber which had previously been commonly used for electric insulators. Since hard rubber had been used for clarinets "Bakelite" became its successor...however...early clarinet manufacturers concocted special names for the phenolic resin they used. I'm certain that in Europe there was an equivalent product(to Bakelite). Because clarinet manufacturers are very secretive about their tradenames and exactly what they use for clarinets (including barrels and mouthpieces) I won't take a guess as to what phenolic resins are being used today. Bakelite is in fact a plastic, but it is a thermoset plastic which means that once it has reacted it cannot be "remelted". Regrinds are however commonly used as fillers for new phenolic parts. With the progress of plastics technology both new thermoset plastics and non-thermosts have been developed. ABS is a popular plastic used today. ABS is an abbreviation for acrilonitrile-butadiene-styrene and there are a number of manufacturers who have their own trademark names...and,again, some clarinet manufacturers probably have their own names too.
General Electric,as you can imagine, liked everyone to think that all Phenolic resin was theirs so they never objected to the popularizing of it's name(just as General Motors didn't object to the popularizing of the word Frigidaire for all refrigerators.)
This reply is getting too long so email me direct if you want additional info. Bob

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: JMcAulay 
Date:   2002-10-01 15:06

Good response from Bob. By the way, "Bakelite" got its name from its inventor, whose name was Bakelin. And Bob, you're right, enough is enough. (I just wrote a bunch of additional stuff and deleted it.) And Jean, congratulations on your new ligature.
Regards,
John

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Bob 
Date:   2002-10-01 16:19

I must apologize for passing on some misinformation. General Electric did not have the trademark on Bakelite. I believe the inventor and patent holder's name was Bakeland. General Electric,however, did manufacture the equivalent product early on and at least during the 1970s still did, but I don't recall their tradename. A Wisconsin mfg. manufactured a number of different formulations under the Plenco name. Having worked for G.E. at one time I guess I was brainwashed.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Dee 
Date:   2002-10-01 16:48

Also the fact that it is marked LP means that it was made no later than the mid 1930s if that. LP stands for Low Pitch, which is the same as today's modern pitch of A=440.

The fact that the ligature is marked B & H while the clarinet is marked Holton would tend to indicate that the ligature is probably not original. It is also probably newer than the clarinet itself as Boosey and Hawkes did not come into existance until the mid 1930s. Prior to that, they were separate companies.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: jean 
Date:   2002-10-01 17:38

I needed my glasses to see the mouthpice. The name on it is Emil Jardin, Paris. I tried it with my Rossi. A piece of junk....
More later as I discover the new instrument. Thanks for your responses.
Jean

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Mark Charette 
Date:   2002-10-01 19:49

JMcAulay wrote:
>
> Good response from Bob. By the way, "Bakelite" got its
> name from its inventor, whose name was Bakelin.

Dr. Leo Baekeland, who started the Bakelite Company in 1910.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: JMcAulay 
Date:   2002-10-01 20:24

Gentlemen: I stand, sit, and prostrate myself corrected. Yep, Bakeland it was. Thanks for helping to scorch that into my memory.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: GBK 
Date:   2002-10-01 20:29

I think that Bakeland is where Betty Crocker was born...GBK (running for the exit)

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   2002-10-01 20:39

TKS to the above, I was going to "chime-in" that Dr L H Baekeland invented/developed the phenol/formaldehyde, etc, thermoset polymers , likely in the 1920-30's [he died 1944] for Union Carbide and Carbon, who established the Bakelite Division [as early as 1910?, Mark]. G E produced/marketed Textolite TS's, prob. with similar chemistry. Jean, as Dee pointed out, the designation of LP [low pitch, A = 435?, Dee] dates your Holton [Cleveland? Mark] to the early 1900's pitch-changing-period, when hard rubber was the common "plastic" [also a TS!] for clarinets. SO, are you sure yours is bakelite, not H R? [which characteristicaly [sp?] turns a light brown-green where exposed to light]. [Again, too many notes?] Don

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Bob Arney 
Date:   2002-10-01 20:40

"Gentlemen: I stand, sit, and prostrate myself corrected."
That's what HE said, .
Gentlemen: I stand, sit and prostate myself, uncorrected.
Bob A

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Mark Charette 
Date:   2002-10-01 20:51

Don Berger wrote:
>
> TKS to the above, I was going to "chime-in" that Dr L H
> Baekeland invented/developed the phenol/formaldehyde, etc,
> thermoset polymers , likely in the 1920-30's [he died 1944] for
> Union Carbide and Carbon, who established the Bakelite Division
> [as early as 1910?, Mark].

He patented Bakelite in 1909 (I believe), formed the Bakelite Corporation in 1910. Don't know when Union Carbide bought him out.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Dee 
Date:   2002-10-01 20:57

The pitch standard was indeed changing and confusing. There was an international conference in the late 1800s that established A=435 as a standard pitch but this was largely ignored. Clarinets marked LP were generally A=440 and this standard was formally adopted in the 1930s, at which time the LP marking seems to have then been dropped.

I have a couple of clarinets marked LP and they are right on the money at A=440. I can't speak to other instruments though.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: JMcAulay 
Date:   2002-10-01 20:57

As I recall, HP rather went away in the 1920s, and I would be very surprised if any HP istruments were produced as late as 1930. LP, from all I've read, was intended to be A=440, but I'm always willing to learn. It might be that some later instruments were labeled LP just to ensure to buyers that they really were that, but that's purely conjecture on my part.

Regards,
John

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Vic 
Date:   2002-10-01 21:00

GBK, you'd better run. That was pitiful. Hee, hee.

Vic

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   2002-10-01 21:30

Mark, yer rite as rein, LHB was a prolific inventor, found a number from USPTO, US 942,808 [1907], may be the basic [parent] patent. He was also into "photo-resists", maybe similar chemistry. Cant find out as to assignees [if any] short of a PDL. He had a paper in I&E Chemistry in 1935, may look it up. TKS to all, FUN, aint it? Don

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: John Kelly - Australia 
Date:   2002-10-01 23:18

Don,

I believe you are right about the composition of this instrument. I have a very old "simple" - no brand name - clarinet which I thought too, was Bakelite way back when I bought it. It is brown with a green tinge as is the m/p, so now I understand it is hard rubber, given your description.

I also remember the old radio in my grandparent's home was Bakelite and had a glossy sheen, unlike hard rubber, which I think, does not have a bright finish??.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: David Spiegelthal 
Date:   2002-10-01 23:25

Were any clarinets ever made of actual Bakelite (the phenolic resin), as opposed to hard rubber? I think perhaps some of us are confusing the two. Personally I've never seen or heard of any clarinets made of Bakelite, but have seen plenty of (and own quite a few) hard rubber clarinets of various sizes. They are quite different materials. I've learned a bunch so far from the excellent responses to the original question -- teach us more!

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   2002-10-02 03:07

A well-put ? Dave! I read carefully Rendall's Chapter on Materials etc and found mention of some "plastics" [of R's info-gathering time frame] and of course "india-rubber" ["natural", presumed to be polyisoprene and other polydienes] hardened by lead and sulfur [PbS??], BUT, NO mention of bakelite or other phenolics, which were then well known. I derived the feeling that he thought that the density [specific gravity] of the materials [and the weight of the finished horn] needed to be close to that of a good wood cl for acceptable RESONANCE/tonality qualities. The bakelite "family" appears to be more dense even, than hard rubber, which R cites is a H R drawback. On my next trip to our library, I'll look up bakelite etc in chem encyclos to see what uses, beyond electrical, it has found. I do run on!!, Dave, could have just said NO!! Don

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Ilkka 
Date:   2002-10-02 05:04

Cheap russchian clarinet i'd say made of bakelite. Mechanics iznogood, sound is nice.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Bob 
Date:   2002-10-02 12:29

The great thing about this Board is that each of us has a piece of the puzzle. Thanks Mark for providing the correct sp of the good Dr's name without comment as per your rule. Doctor B also had a patent that led to Velox used in photog. It's all on Google for anyone who wants all the details. The mgrs. who marketed clarinets made from "Bakelite" used their own tradenames for marketing purposes....that's why you never see the Bakelite name associated with them. The easy way to differentiate hard rubber and "phenolic resin" clarinet parts is by the brownish green color that the hard rubbers eventually exude....usually. However, phenolic resin parts were/are also made in colors such as brown,red and green...but not as vibrant as the current ones made from thermoplastics. The early phenolic resin horns probably never used fillers that improved their poor impact and tensile strength so they don't withstand hard knocks very well.

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: jez 
Date:   2002-10-02 13:20

Surely it's more likely that this inst. is made of hard rubber (ebonite) This was very commonly used before the introduction of more modern plastics (resonite) and with good results. I myself played on a B&H E flat made in ebonite for the first 15 years of my professional life and didn't think there was any difference in quality due to the material if the instrument was made as carefully as a wooden equivalent. Boosey & Hawkes used to offer their top models in a variety of materials. Thee 1010 was wood, the 1011 the same instrument in ebonite and, I believe, the 1012 in metal (though I've never seen one)
With the advent of "Greenline" it's interesting to think about the effect of the material of a woodwind instrument compared to the effect of its quality of manufacture. Look at the variety of flutes in use.
jez

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Jean 
Date:   2002-10-02 14:31

Wow, I guess I opened up the proverbial can of worms!!! Thanks for all your responses and quips. The instrument is at work. So I will answer the Holton question later.

And no, it is not tuned to A440. It has a really short barrel however which makes me wonder if the barrel belonged to a different instrument. The rest of the parts all have the same information on them.

Jean

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 RE: bakelite clarinet
Author: Gordon (NZ) 
Date:   2002-10-02 15:19

As a child I became very familiar with bakelite in electrical gear, especially the screw covers on round porcelain switches, and also on rectangular switch bases. I have worked on many Boosey & Hawkes Regent clarinets, and have asumed that the old 'plastic' versions to be bakelite, from the appearance, the brittle nature, and general properties.

I doubt that Holton made clarinets. The well-known name associated with quality brass instruments was probably used by another manufacturer, or by Holton marketing some other maker's clarinet. The 'Holton' woodwinds I have worked on have been of notably low quality.

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: David Spiegelthal 
Date:   2002-10-02 17:11

I just restored a 1960-vintage Boosey & Hawkes "Imperial 926" hard-rubber clarinet, and it was a gem --- played as well as any clarinet I've tried, bar none, and better than a wood Symphony 1010 model I renovated two years ago. My personal orchestral Bb/A clarinet pair is a couple of hard-rubber Couesnon clarinets, probably dating from the 40s or so, and my bass clarinet (the best-playing low-Eb horn I've ever played) is a late-50s hard rubber Kohlert-Winnenden. My Eb clarinet, which plays very well in tune, is a humble little olive-green hard rubber M. Lacroix probably from the 30s or 40s. The point I'm trying to make (with little success?) is that hard rubber instruments can be as good as, or even better than, their wood equivalents. My experience with older clarinets has been that over long periods of time, hard-rubber clarinets hold up better than wood ones (as long as one can live with the olive-green or olive-brown color they almost invariably turn). Their bores and toneholes maintain a smooth, polished surface finish much better than wood over the years, and generally they don't crack unless dropped or hit against a hard surface. I wish modern manufacturers would take another close look at hard rubber (a.k.a. "ebonite") as an alternative to grenadilla for all their clarinet lines. I have a 1959 Kohlert ad which shows that back then they offered their alto and bass clarinets in both hard rubber and grenadilla versions, for about the same price (the wood ones were slightly more expensive, but not by much) --- I'd love to see that happen again.

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   2002-10-02 19:50

Jean, I went back and did some rereading of these "lively WORMS", really valuable info-exchange PMHO, as Bob says, "puzzle parts". Out of an abundance of curiousity, try the subject cl with a reasonably-sized barrel [66mm for Bb?] as to pitch, when you can. Our library has a new [VG] ref. book, "World of Chemistry" which gave biographies [confirmed Mark C's info re: Baekeland] and discussed hard rubber=vulcanite=ebonite=resonite materials and processes. Another major use use of bakelite [beyond electrical] was in "costume" jewelry etc !! , BUT again, no mention of musical insts., a large market? A thot re: "modern" hard rubbers, following the WWII development of syn. rub. {I worked in it}, it seems to me that with the newer rubs. and vulcanizing processes, the tell-tale brown-green coloration has disappeared, retaining the shiny-black appearance we all Know and Love, ?thots? , Dave?, Don

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: David Spiegelthal 
Date:   2002-10-02 20:44

Don,
I've seen 'relatively' modern hard rubber instruments and mouthpieces with the olive-green/brown discoloration, especially on those used outdoors (e.g. mouthpieces from marching band instruments). I believe the discoloration is the result of cumulative exposure to sunlight and/or atmosphere, probably a reaction of the sulfur which I think is a component of all the hard rubbers, new and old formulations alike. But I'm not a chemist, nor do I play one on TV. Dr. Omar????

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: Bob 
Date:   2002-10-02 21:07

Dave wrote
<the best-playing low-Eb horn I've ever played) is a late-50s hard rubber Kohlert-Winnenden. >
Now if you could just find an equivalent alto!!

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: Bob Arney 
Date:   2002-10-02 22:24

Will Dave even admit to PLAYING an Eb Alto. Tune in next week?
Bob A
PS. There are some nice looking older ones on e-Bay Dave.

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: Jean 
Date:   2002-10-03 00:05

So, I can assume from your comments I purchased a pre-WWII clarinet. And yep, it does have that odd greenish color and smell. And from what I gather it is not bakelite (which I had assumed was more widely used)but a type of hard rubber. Am I correct that plastic as we know it today came about during WWII? If my history is correct one of the first uses of plastic was on war-planes.
The instrument definitely says F. Holton on it....so does that mean someone else made it and stamped the Holton logo on it?
I will try one of my other barrels to see if it plays closer to 440.

Thanks again for all the responses.

Jean

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: Jean 
Date:   2002-10-03 00:09

To add to what I just wrote...I just did a search in yahoo of history of plastic and came up with a lovely history from the american plastic council....
Jean

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: Bob 
Date:   2002-10-03 12:35

Jean wrote:
<plastic as we know it today came about during WWII? If my history is correct one of the first uses of plastic was on war-planes.>

I find it hard to interpret "as we know it today". You are probably thinking of "Plexiglas", the current popular equivalent being,I believe, Lexan.

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: Gordon (NZ) 
Date:   2002-10-04 11:25

I was recently in an industrial stock plastics warehouse adn was shown a very expensive plastic rod. When you hit it it rings like metal! I guess there are many specialized polymers out there that most of us have never encountered, including those which conduct electricity - 2000 Nobel Prize in chemistry - http://www.nzedge.com/heroes/macdiarmid.html

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: Bob 
Date:   2002-10-04 14:30

I did read it,Gordon,good thing he didn't try to make C4N4...

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 RE: hard rubber ("ebonite")
Author: Dee 
Date:   2002-10-05 01:09

Holton may have been an independent maker at one time.

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 RE: Bakelite / Frank Holton
Author: David Spiegelthal 
Date:   2002-10-07 14:21

Holton was an independent maker prior to becoming a subsidiary of Leblanc Corporation. Frank Holton was a trombonist in the Sousa band, starting making instruments (primarily brass and saxes) somewhere around the 1880s, I think --- you can still find many of his old saxes (1910-1925 era) on eBay --- I had a 1917 Frank Holton silver-plated tenor sax which was pretty nice, and he made a line of saxes with some special features, the Rudy Wiedoeft models, which are semi-collectables nowadays. Interestingly, he and various other makers during the early 20th century made some mouthpieces out of Bakelite (the actual rust-brown plastic Bakelite) with metal chamber/table inserts --- possibly some of the earliest versions of 'metal' mouthpieces --- I have one each of these in alto and tenor sizes. They are large-chambered and have VERY close tip openings -- virtually unplayable today without massive refacing. My apologies for going off on a tangent.

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